The 5 biggest surprises in the first half of the NY Islanders season

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Lane Lambert wasn't fired

There was a point where it felt second-year head coach Lane Lambert was firmly on the hot seat or at least should have been. The Isles were blowing third-period leads regularly and went winless for seven straight games in November.

After losing four straight (0-1-3), the team embarked on a four-game western Canada road trip and there was some thought that Lambert wouldn't be the coach upon their return. They lost the first game to Edmonton and then blew leads to Seattle and Vancouver, losing both games in overtime.

Nov 16, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert during the second
Nov 16, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert during the second / Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The final game on the trip was in Calgary, and the Isles once again couldn't hold onto a third-period lead. However, this time they survived overtime and won the game in a shootout on an Oliver Wahlstrom goal. Would GM Lou Lamoriello have made a chance if they had lost? We'll never know.

Things stabilized a bit from there, but the Islanders were still unable to hold onto leads late in games. On Nov. 28, they led the Devils 4-2 but lost 5-4 in regulation, surrendering three goals in the third period including the game winner with 23 seconds left to play. The team rebounded to win the next two games, though they blew another lead in Carolina, but then came the low point of the season against San Jose. The Islanders led the lowly Sharks 4-1 in the third period, allowed three consecutive goals, and lost in overtime.

Following that unacceptable loss, a portion of the fanbase was ready to move. They'd have enough of the blown leads and lost points. Lamoriello stuck with his hand-picked Trotz successor, and the results continue to be mixed, though, given the injuries to the back end, Lambert and his staff deserve credit for keeping the group together and showing resolve as they did Thursday vs. Toronto.